, Oct 2, 2007 (CNA) - On Monday at the United Nations in New York, Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, the Vatican’s secretary for Relations with States, took the floor to call the UN to a renovation of its founding principles. Above all, the archbishop emphasized that failures in human society can be attributed to "forgetting, or partially and selectively accepting," the principle of respect for human dignity.
At the beginning of his English-language talk, Archbishop Mamberti pointed out that "forgetting, or partially and selectively accepting," the principle of respect for human dignity "is what lies at the origin of conflicts, of environmental degradation and of social and economic injustices."
Recalling that the year 2008 marks the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Archbishop Mamberti said “[t]hese rights are not based on the mere will of human beings, nor in the reality of the State, nor in public powers, but rather are grounded in the objective requirements of the nature bestowed on man.”
"The most important part of our work in this context is to ensure that the inherent right to life is respected everywhere. This fundamental right must be protected from conception until natural death.”
"We must work to stop and reverse the culture of death embraced by some social and legal structures that try to make the suppression of life acceptable by disguising it as a medical or social service. In this sense, the abolition of the death penalty should also be seen as a consequence of full respect for the right to life," said Archbishop Mamberti.
The archbishop also explained that protecting human dignity can be accomplished through Inter-religious and Inter-cultural dialogue, which is in fact, the way to peace. “Indeed, dialogue among peoples of different cultures and religions is not an option; it is something indispensable for peace and for the renewal of international life."
The prelate also explained that this dialogue can only take place in the right conditions: “Many of the problems that today are attributed almost exclusively to cultural and religious differences have their origin in economic and social injustices. Freedom from want – illness, hunger, ignorance – is a necessary presupposition for a serene dialogue of civilizations.”
Referring to conflict prevention and to efforts aimed at achieving and maintaining peace, the secretary for Relations with States indicated that the Holy See looks forward "to the day that peacekeeping efforts in Darfur will finally be fully operational."
Furthermore, "there is need for a renewed commitment, involving all member countries, in the pacification and reconstruction of long-suffering Iraq," and "in the search for a solution, through dialogue, of the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians."
"Renewed commitment is needed in assuring that Lebanon will continue to be a free and independent country," the archbishop added, while on the subject of Myanmar, he reiterated Benedict XVI's appeal of last Sunday: "Through dialogue, good will and a spirit of humanity, may a solution to the crisis be found quickly for the good of the country and a better future for all its inhabitants."
Vatican City, Oct 2, 2007 (CNA) - In a letter to Mario Agnes, Pope Benedict XVI expressed his deep gratitude to the head of the Vatican newspaper, "L'Osservatore Romano." Agnes held the position of editor-in-chief of the paper beginning in 1984 until recently when he announced his retirement.
Agnes has received praise from both Pope Benedict as well as from Pope John Paul II during his time of service due to “the coherent Christian commitment, love for the Church and exemplary faithfulness to the Magisterium" that have accompanied Agnes' "testimony as a believer." The Pope also highlighted his desire to always show “particular interest for the written communication of the Christian message."
Along with his duties as director, Agnes worked as diocesan president of Catholic Action. In this position, he desired "to give the Catholic lay presence a higher profile in the mass media forum." He also served as president of the "Avvenire" publishing group. The Pope highlighted his efforts "in dealing with the various themes associated with Italian ecclesial, cultural and political life."
In concluding his letter, The Holy Father reiterated his "sincere respect and profound gratitude" and included Mario Agnes among the Gentlemen of His Holiness.
Vatican City, Oct 2, 2007 (CNA) - In its annual plenary session, the International Theological Commission plans to discuss natural moral law in a document aimed to examine a universal system of ethics.
The commission will begin to examine ideas for a document regarding natural moral law. According to a communiqué, this document will have “the aim of ... advancing the search for the foundations of a universal system of ethics." Another item of discussion for the commission concerns the a document on the subject of "nature of theology, its meaning and methods."
The session will be held October 1-5 in the Vatican’s “Domus Sanctae Marthae.” It will be chaired by Fr. Luis Ladaria S.J., secretary general of the commission, and will be concluded by Pope Benedict XVI.
Gallup, N.M., Oct 2, 2007 (CNA) - Bishop Donald Pelotte of the Diocese of Gallup, New Mexico made an erratic emergency call from his home to local police early Thursday morning. An incident report from the McKinley Metropolitan Dispatch Authority reported that Bishop Pelotte, aged 62, told operators "...gentle little people, about 3 to 4 feet tall, and wearing Halloween masks" were in the hall. Bishop Pelotte is reported to have said that he hid in a closet while the people were in his home.
Three officers were dispatched to the bishop's residence at 6 a.m., where they searched inside and outside his home. They reportedly found no intruders, but twenty minutes later the bishop requested they search again. Again, the officers discovered no intruders.
The bishop reported four individuals were in his house but gave contradictory information about them. He said one of the individuals had come to visit while the others came inside. He claimed they had been at his home for three hours and would not leave despite his requests.
Bishop Pelotte suffered severe injuries on July 23 sometime before his chancellor Deacon Timoteo Lujan discovered him locked in his bedroom. The bishop told Deacon Lujan that he had fallen down a staircase, but an emergency room physician at Rehoboth McKinley Christian Hospital contacted police, suspecting Bishop Pelotte may have been assaulted. The bishop was then airlifted to a trauma center at a Phoenix hospital.
Following the incident, Bishop Pelotte insisted that he fell down a set of stairs after having felt sick for the previous day or two. Chancery officials at the Diocese of Gallup have said that Bishop Pelotte suffered traumatic head injury in the July incident.
Matt Doyle, interim communications director for the Diocese of Gallup, said that clergy consulting Bishop Pelotte and other officials will be contacted to make a decision for the diocese. Nonetheless, the final decision on what to do will fall to the Vatican.
St. Louis, Mo., Oct 2, 2007 (CNA) - In an essay certain to have an impact on American politics, Archbishop Raymond Burke of the Archdiocese of St. Louis has criticized lax attitudes concerning the reception of the Holy Eucharist. His words continue a long-standing debate about whether Catholic politicians who support abortion rights should receive communion.
Archbishop Burke's essay, titled "The Discipline Regarding the Denial of Holy Communion to Those Obstinately Persevering in Manifest Grave Sin," appeared in Periodica De Re Canonica, a publication of the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. In it, the archbishop counseled that pastors should actively intervene to ensure that communicants receive Holy Communion worthily, basing his reasons on a detailed interpretation and analysis of canon law.
Canon law is composed of the rules and regulations governing the Catholic Church. It outlines the rights and duties of the faithful of all orders of church life: laity, vowed religious, clergy, and bishops. Canon law is also the inspiration for much of the democratic legal system that exists today.
Response to the USCCB
The archbishop writes in response to a statement of the United States' Conference of Catholic Bishops, "Catholics in Political Life", which was adopted in June of 2004. The statement was written to answer questions about the proper disposition of Catholics in political office who supported immoral public policies, especially the legalization of unlimited abortion. The bishops' conference document, while stressing the importance of worthy reception of Holy Communion, refrained from creating general guidelines. It said: "such decisions rest with the individual bishop in accord with the established canonical and pastoral principles. Bishops can legitimately make different judgments on the most prudent course of pastoral action."
To this, Archbishop Burke responded: "the question regarding the objective state of Catholic politicians who knowingly and willingly hold opinions contrary to the natural moral law would hardly seem to change from place to place."
Archbishop Burke argued that the American discussion had overemphasized Canon 916, which concerns the duty of Catholics to practice honest self-examination so that they should receive Holy Communion in a state free from mortal sin. This overemphasis worked to the detriment of the observation of Canon 915, which concerns the duty of the minister of the Sacrament to ensure that those who recieve Holy Communion are properly disposed.
Proper disposition for Holy Communion requires the communicant to be in a state of grace, that is, free from unrepented mortal sin.
Refusal of Communion is not excommunication
The archbishop also clarified that the denial of Holy Communion was not necessarily an act of excommunication, but the exercise of a moral duty on the part of the minister "to respect the holiness of the Sacrament, to safeguard the salvation of the soul of the party presenting himself to receive Holy Communion, and to avoid scandal."
Such action, he said, must take place with deliberation and prudence. Grave and public sinners "must be cautioned not to approach to receive Holy Communion." The archbishop advises pastoral conversation with such persons "so that the person knows that he is not to approach to receive Holy Communion and, therefore, the distribution of Holy Communion does not become an occasion of conflict."
Politicians accept great responsibility
Though such action does not concern only notorious sinners who are politicians, Archbishop Burke underlined public officials' unique duties: "Catholics in public office bear an especially heavy burden of responsibility to uphold the moral law in the exercise of their office which is exercised for the common good, especially the good of the innocent and defenseless."
Archbishop Burke closed his essay by admonishing priests and bishops to fulfill their difficult duty: "No matter how often a bishop or priest repeats the teaching of the Church regarding procured abortion, if he stands by and does nothing to discipline a Catholic who publicly supports legislation permitting the gravest of injustices and, at the same time, presents himself to receive Holy Communion, then his teaching rings hollow. To remain silent is to permit serious confusion regarding a fundamental truth of the moral law."
Vatican City, Oct 2, 2007 (CNA) - The president of the Pontifical Council for Health Care, Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragan, said this week reports that John Paul II requested to be euthanized are part of an effort to “legitimize” the practice.
The controversy broke out several days ago after Italian Doctor Lina Pavanelli—an anesthesiologist and professor at the University of Ferrara—said John Paul II was indirectly euthanized by having his feeding tube put in too late, on March 30, 2005, three days before his death. Speaking to Europa Press, Cardinal Lozano said John Paul II “never refused” food and water “nor any treatment” before dying, and to claim otherwise is “an immense falsehood.”
He noted that the medical team that cared for the Pontiff in the last stage of his life acted “in accord with their knowledge and competency,” providing food and water until the end and before March 30. According to the cardinal, the defenders of euthanasia—such as those in the case of Terri Schiavo, whose feeding tube was removed resulting in her death, or the case of Piergiogio Welby in Italy, whose respirator was disconnected—are trying to “adapt” John Paul’s case to their agenda.
Cardinal Lozano said the reports are merely “lies” that being used to deceive people and “demonstrate a false thesis.” Speaking to the Italian dailies Corriere della Sera and La Repubblica, the doctors who cared for the late Pontiff also rebuffed Pavanelli’s claims, pointing out that the Pope’s feeding tube was installed before March 30, although that was the day on which it was permanently installed.
Juba, Sudan, Oct 2, 2007 (CNA) - The town of Juba in the war-torn south of Sudan is a "time bomb" which "could explode at any time, with consequences for the entire country" reports a source of the Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need(ACN).
In the past weekend military activities have taken place in Juba, which the Sudanese source says has remained a garrison town even after a peace accord halted Sudan's civil war in January of 2005. Juba residents were forbidden to leave their houses, while those in the street were stopped and searched for weapons. At least two journalists were arrested and their cameras confiscated.
The increase in tension was further worsened by rumors that the president of the South of Sudan, Salva Kirr, had been killed. Preparations for riots were underway in the capital of Khartoum and some marketplace turmoil afflicted Juba. President Kirr had to demonstrate he was still alive by attending Sunday Mass at the cathedral. He exhorted people to "have no truck with rumors" which could "easily lead to war." He further blasted the violent instigators as enemies of peace.
Another person who attended this Mass explained "how fragile the peace still is" and warned that the peace accord could "at any moment be broken again." They added, "Please pray for us!"
Aid to the Church in Need is asking all Catholics worldwide to pray for peace in Sudan.
Washington D.C., Oct 2, 2007 (CNA) - A coalition of political organizations have joined together to support American churches and pastors who fear legal harassment for speaking out about election issues.
Concerned Women for America, the Alliance Defense Fund, Focus on the Family, the Family Research Council and the James Madison Center for Free Speech have issued a nationwide letter informing pastors of their legal rights to address political issues and to encourage their parishioners to sign petitions without jeopardizing their churches' tax-exempt status.
The letter "Constitutional Protections for Pastors: Your Freedom to Speak Biblical Truth on the Moral Issues of the Day," available at www.cwfa.org, provides to pastors and churches legal guidelines for political speech and speech that can be construed as political. The letter supplements a Concerned Women for America brochure titled "Political Guidelines for Churches and Pastors."
The information is intended to counter organizations such as Americans United for Separation of Church and State, which have allegedly distributed misleading information seeking to intimidate religious organizations addressing social issues. Some groups also file harassing complaints with the IRS to threaten religious groups with burdensome investigations of their tax-exempt status.
Wendy Wright, President of Concerned Women for America, used the announcement of the letter to encourage a robust religious freedom: "For too long pastors have been led to believe in the myth that Christian leaders must be censored on politically-related issues... religious leaders need to know they have a right to be actively engaged and should not fall for false threats that they will lose their tax-exempt status."
Ms. Wright continued: "...the First Amendment protects the freedom of religion, not government restriction of religion. Religion and morality are foundational to America's success and Christian leaders would neglect their duty if they allow themselves to be silenced by empty threats."
Mexico City, Mexico, Oct 2, 2007 (CNA) - The Archdiocese of Mexico’s weekly newspaper, Desde la Fe, published an editorial this week faulting the Democratic Revolution Party (PRD) as responsible for the attacks on Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera and calling on the powerful political party to express its opinions with respect and not with violence.
The editorial points out that such attacks are part of a series of aggressions at different levels, clearly originating from the Democratic Revolution Party, which has lost is capacity for dialogue and respect.”
During the last year, the article notes, “more than ten violent attacks inside the Cathedral have taken place, an even greater number has taken place outside the church, some have taken place at the Archdiocese, one attack has been directly against the person of Cardinal Rivera Carrera, which was not successful, unproven calumnies have been spread against the Archbishop of Mexico City, as well as constant ridicule of the cardinal in meetings and in the media.”
The article emphasized that the Church respects all political choices and recognizes the right of citizens “to have their own convictions, exhorting the faithful to be consistent with their religious principles at the polling booth.” It went on to state that the PRD should be first in respect for differing points of view. “Insults and aggression not only belittle the one who spreads them, they also keep everyone from growing,” the article stated.
“The Church also has a point of view about social questions that does not always coincide with everyone’s proposals, but she is assisted not only by freedom of expression, but also by the duty to publicly speak out on issues that affect the fundamental questions about the person and about society,” the article said.
Vatican City, Oct 2, 2007 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI exhorted Catholics on Monday, the memorial of St. Therese of Lisieux, patroness of the missions, to “untiringly recognize the importance of the missions, so that in all places Christ may be known and loved.”
In a letter dated September 12 and published yesterday, the Holy Father wrote to Cardinal Ivan Dias, prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, that his call echoes that of Pius XII in the encyclical Fidei Donum, inviting Christians to “renew their commitment to the missions unto the ends of the earth, affirming that the cooperation of the entire Church is needed for the spreading of the Gospel.”
Benedict XVI later recalled that “the Pilgrimage of Lisieux and the services of the missionary Cooperation of the Bishops’ Conference of France supported the designation of 2007 as a Year of the Missions in Lisieux.”
“With the same spirit, aware of the concern for the missions of the Church in France, I express the desire that missionary vocations to the priesthood, religious life and among the laity spread throughout the continents, as in past centuries. May the Lord inspire in the hearts of many European young people the desire to give themselves completely to the proclamation of the salvation of Christ, especially in Africa, South America and Oceania!” the Pope exclaimed.
The Holy Father recalled that St. Therese, “without leaving her Carmel,” lived “an authentic missionary spirit in her own way,” offering “to the world a new spiritual way which earned her the title Doctor of the Church. From Pius XI to our days, the Popes have not ceased to reiterate the link between prayer, charity and action in the mission of the Church.”
“Therefore I desire that the celebrations in Lisieux in this Year of the Missions strengthen the missionary sense in all of the baptized, through prayer, testimony of life and Christian determination in all of its forms, so that every member of the faithful can be a missionary wherever they live,” the Pope said in conclusion.
San Salvador, El Salvador, Oct 2, 2007 (CNA) - Archbishop Fernando Saenz Lacalle of San Salvador told those aspiring to the office of president this week to read and study the Church’s Social Doctrine, “which contains fundamental principles for social justice.” He also exhorted them to carry out “honest and sincere” political campaigns.
“I recommend the candidates and pre-candidates of all political parties obtain a copy (of the Compendium of the Church’s Social Teachings),” the archbishop told reporters.
“It is a brief book, but it contains the fundamental principles for social justice. If they cannot get it, they can ask me and I will see how to get them a copy,” he said. Archbishop Lacalle stressed that the principles are “not partisan, rather they must the basis of social justice.”
The presidential elections in El Salvador are scheduled to take place in 2009.